What’s up with the Cuba Sonic Mystery?
(Washington, DC) I was at the WaterGate Hotel, the mecca of silly spycraft, just having a burger and catching up with John and Jono of Innovadores fame. The breadth of what their humanitarian accomplishments in two years is pretty amazing, as their regular updates will attest. It has been a breakneck sprint (relatively) since Obama loosened relations with Havana in 2015. The Foundation has sponsored three years of fantastic Cuban entrepreneurs to intern at Grand Central Tech, and everyone has returned to do good things in Cuba. Several have begun to launch businesses, and we stand ready to assist again.
But recently, the US Embassy in Havana cut staff 60%, just two years after opening for the first time in 50+ years. Guidelines on doing business- mostly tourism– are expected to further curtail activity with Cuban Government holdings. Is this really going to stop progress cold, here, now? I find that hard to imagine. Here’s why.
Do Sonic attacks even exist?
(from Snopes) …A diplomatic mystery… came to light in a 10 August 2017 story first reported by the Associated Press. The report focused on a series of seemingly related illnesses suffered by American and Canadian diplomats serving in Cuba. The original reporting included what later appeared to be speculation from unnamed United States government officials that some form of heretofore unknown sonic weapon was to blame…
No doubt US – Cuban bilateral relations have become even more complicated as diplomats and family members have reported a variety of injuries. While the extent of the injuries has been confirmed by medical evaluations in the US, their origin remains a mystery. The US has not directly accused Cuba of causing these injuries, and the Cuban government has denied any responsibility. In response, the US has reduced its diplomatic personnel in Cuba to limit the potential for injuries and warned American visitors to Cuba that they could also be potential victims. So far there have been no reports of injuries to Americans outside the diplomatic community. Innovadores will continue to travel to Cuba to support private sector entrepreneurs. Our judgment is that American visitors on short visits are unlikely to be impacted by these attacks.
For me, it all seems as far-fetched as Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel explaining why his amp went to volume 11.
(Highly speculative) Who would benefit from the sonic blowback?
When I look at this question, it seems to me even less likely that (official) Cuba was behind anything. Cuba has been in trying strategic straights lately: Venezuela is crumbling, Irma battered the island, and their demographics are getting really old (half above 65 in five years). In the words of the (recently evacuated) diplomat Scott Hamilton, the kids are pushing change, and that is going to require a relaxing of control. Per AirBnb, 650k Americans came to Cuba in 2016, and the American tourism dollars are badly needed. In fact, senior Cuban diplomats descended on DC last week to plead their innocence just before the announcement, to no avail.
It also seems unlikely that this incident is a just cause for the current US administration to wipe clean the Obama rapprochement. I say this because, well, there are so many other bigger punitive measures they could have taken if they wanted to prosecute a firmer position. And if this was truly the reason the US needed to make a punitive move, it might sound a bit like “remember the Maine”.
The third theory is that someone highly placed in the Cuban Government, or anyone working independently, decided this would be the best deterrent to further integration of Cuban- American cooperation. Anything is possible I guess, but it doesn’t explain the mystery machine.
Who could bungle an operation so badly? And what for?
Would Cuba wish to curtail US tourism at this point? I don’t think so. Would POTUS have better ways to reverse Obama’s Cuba detente? Easily, but he hasn’t chosen that course here. Would a dissident Cuban (in this case, dissenting against change) want to slow progress before the transition of power due in Havana in 2018? Possibly. Did someone totally screw up with the settings on a machine that likely doesn’t exist and would be near impossible to smuggle into Cuba? That’s my bet.
In this case, turning it up to 11 was not “one better”. It seemed very Water-Gate-ish to me.
Post: WaPo published this just after. Inconclusive.
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